Guthrie Ophthalmologist’s Journey to Provide Eye Care in Underserved Africa

In 1988, Guthrie Ophthalmologist Dr. Cathy Schanzer traveled to Nigeria for her first mission trip, providing essential eye care services to local residents in need. That trip was the beginning of her answer to a call that she first heard when she was nine years old. Throughout the years that followed, Dr. Schanzer partnered with existing programs to serve patients in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Sierra Leone, until Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu opened to the public.

Dr. Schanzer and her husband led the development of Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu in 2006. The clinic is a permanent eye care center located in Serabu, a remote village in Sierra Leone, providing water, electricity, patient examination areas, an optical dispensary, and a modern operating theatre with state-of-the-art technology and even air conditioning, virtually unheard of in this village but necessary for the equipment. Thanks to the dedication and effort of Dr. Schanzer and her husband, the people of Serabu have a modern eye care and surgical center that is caring for patients from Sierra Leone and six neighboring countries of West Africa. 

Despite her lifelong dream of providing care to those in need, Dr. Schanzer herself may not have imagined the impact she would have on such a great number of people. Today, over 30 years later, the clinic is open year-round, has a staff of 52 full-time employees with 10 satellite clinics located in other remote villages and cares for over 15,000 patients annually, providing medicines, eyeglasses and modern eye surgery, free of charge to all patients. Dr. Schanzer travels twice a year to Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu, seeing upwards of 100 clinic patients and 30 surgical patients a day. The average length of blindness for these cataract patients is over 20 years due to their lack of health care resources and many of these patients walk several days to reach the clinic. Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu has been able to support numerous community development projects, including food programs, water wells, education scholarships, a 30-station computer center, sports activities for all ages and abilities and faith sharing. 

A mission wall with photos of Dr. Schanzer and her patients at The Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu can be found in the waiting room at Sayre Ophthalmology. For more information on the Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu and Dr. Schanzer’s mission work, visit or call 901-569-3939.

mission wall